How Do I Keep My Indoor Plants Alive During Winter?


You figure your plants already have an advantage since you keep them indoors during the frigid chill of winter. Well, you had thought that, but lately, they’re not looking so good. Are there special precautions you have to take for indoor plants to get them through the cold season? We did some exploring to bring you the answer.

How do I keep my indoor plants alive during winter? To keep your indoor plants happy and healthy all winter long, you must do the following:

  • Wait until spring to repot
  • Provide adequate light when the sun can’t
  • Reseal or replace drafty windows
  • Clean up dirt and dust on plant leaves
  • Fertilize and water slightly less often

Wait, should you really reduce how often you water your indoor plants in the winter? For more on the points above and answers to all your most burning questions, keep reading. We’ll tell you everything you need to know about wintertime maintenance for your indoor plants in this article.

How to Keep an Indoor Plant Alive in the Winter

While it’s true that your plants don’t have to sit outside in the frigid cold all winter since you grow them indoors, their survival isn’t necessarily guaranteed. You can’t get lax in your care or stick to the same routines you would during warmer times once winter arrives. Your plants will need more advanced care.

The following advice and pointers will get both you and your indoor plant through a long winter.

Avoid Wintertime Repotting

Does your indoor plant look a little too big for its pot? Maybe it’s been that way for a while. You meant to take care of repotting the plant in the fall, but you had so much going on. Now that winter has slowed life down a bit, you’re thinking it’s the perfect time for repotting.

Not so fast. By repotting your plant now, you could accidentally kill it. You see, your plant will change in ways to accommodate for the cold. For instance, their roots stop growing nearly as quickly as they do when the weather is warmer. If you moved your indoor plant to a bigger pot now, the soil in that pot would retain its wetness more than you want it to. That makes it a little too easy to overwater your plant and waterlog it. You could also trigger root rot.

Your plant can survive a few months more in its current pot. When the temps begin to thaw, then repot it. There should be a much lower risk of the above ill effects.

Ensure Your Plant Gets the Light It Needs

Grow Lights over indoor plants during the winter months can really help make up for the lack of natural light your houseplants need
Grow Lights over indoor plants during the winter months can really help make up for the lack of natural light your houseplants need

You know the routine this time of the year: you wake up in the dark, go to work, and, when you head home for the day, it’s dark once again. It seems like daylight is practically nonexistent in the winter. While that’s not completely true, you do get a lot less of it than you do in the spring or summer. Even autumn days stretch out slightly longer than those in winter do.

Thus, you must accommodate for this lack of light. As we’ve said on this blog, plants need light to live. You could have your indoor plant perched on your windowsill, but the many dark hours of winter may not be enough for it. To accommodate, consider adding a few full spectrum lights or grow lights to your home or apartment. While nothing can replace sunlight outright, these lights can mimic it well enough that your plant will stay alive.

Reseal or Replace Old Windows

Speaking of the windowsill in which you keep the plant, what’s the condition of that window like? Is it old, dusty, maybe with cracked seals? If you answered yes, then you need to do something about that. When the seals around your window crack, they no longer provide insulation. Thus, the cold, whipping winds of winter can get right into your home.

If you find yourself having to constantly bump up the heat because you can’t stop shivering, check your windows. Once you get close to them, you probably feel pretty chilly, right? Now imagine what life is like for your poor plant that sits on that windowsill, absorbing the chill all day. Yeah, it’s not pretty. Either reseal your windows stat or consider getting new ones installed. You should find yourself picking up fewer dead leaves from your indoor plant once you take care of your windows.

Maintain Your Plant, Removing Dust and Dirt

All plants go through a process known as photosynthesis. You may have learned about this in a childhood science class, but here’s a little recap. Photosynthesis is when plants take sunlight, particularly sun energy, and make it into another form of energy called chemical energy. This provides the fuel a plant needs.

One thing that can interrupt photosynthesis is the cleanliness of the plant’s leaves. If too much dust or dirt gets on the leaves, the plant cannot take light energy and make it into chemical energy. You might mist your plant’s leaves to keep them clean, dab at the dirty spots with a paper towel, or even carefully run the whole plant under some water (don’t turn this on high!).

Reduce How Often You Fertilize and Water the Plant

You might fertilize your indoor plant monthly or every couple of months. This activity is directly tied to how much your plant is growing. Since growth significantly slows down in the winter, there’s no need for frequent fertilizing. In fact, you should limit this activity from March through September only. That means skipping winter fertilizing unless you’re positive your plant really needs it.

Although it will feel strange, you need to water your plant a lot less often than you currently do as well. We already mentioned that root growth can inch to a crawl, thus too much water can get stuck in the soil. If you’ve noticed the soil has mold, small insects linger around your plant, or the leaves have yellowed, these aren’t side effects of the wintertime chill. They’re signs you’ve overwatered your plant.

When should you replenish your indoor plant with water? Maybe every other day or even every two days. If you can tell your plant looks a little dry, then by all means, don’t deprive it. Just make sure you walk the fine line between too little water and too much.

More Wintertime Maintenance Tips for Your Indoor Plants

If you’re looking for more tips for keeping your indoor plant healthy during a bleak winter, here are some of our top picks:

  • Turn on the tunes: According to a 2019 article in Dengarden, plants quite like music. In fact, violin-based songs can even boost their growth. We’ve also heard that classical music might have an effect. Why not try it for yourself and see?
  • Keep bugs at bay: Put the insecticide and other chemicals down. Instead, create a homemade sticky trap using a toothpick, honey, and card paper. This can grab fungus gnats and keep them from flying around your indoor plant.
  • The heat is on: While tropical plants have more stringent heat and humidity requirements, no plant wants to grow in a cold environment. Make sure you’re running your heater often for your indoor plant.
  • Get the feather duster: If your plant is just dusty instead of dirty, you don’t have to mist it. Instead, grab a feather duster and clean the plant’s leaves. Photosynthesis now becomes easier for the plant.

Related Questions

What temperature is too cold for houseplants?

While the temperature requirements of indoor plants or houseplants does vary, you do want to maintain a consistent warmth in your home during the winter. If you can bump your thermostat up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, that works just fine for your plant. They even like temps as high as 80 degrees, but you probably don’t want to make your home or apartment a sauna all day. That’s understandable.

When the sun goes down and you get ready for bed, you can turn the thermostat down to a more reasonable level. Houseplants can withstand temps as low as 60 degrees and as high as 68 degrees at night in the winter.

At which temperature should houseplants be brought inside?

Sometimes, you might decide to put a houseplant outside for a few hours or days. While we advise you to do this in the spring or summer instead of the winter, you might not have known that. You shiver whenever you step outside, so you know your plant must be cold. At which temperature does your plant risk sustaining damage if left outside?

According to the Department of Plant and Soil Science at the University of Vermont Extension, once the temperatures dip under 45 degrees at night, it’s time for houseplants to come back indoors. If we’re in the thick of winter, then it’s probably 10, sometimes 20 degrees colder than that at night, so be careful.

Don’t just plunk your plant back on the windowsill inside, either. You want to fill a tub or bowl with lukewarm water. Let the plant sit for a while, about 15 minutes. This pushes out any insects that may have found their way into the plant’s soil.

Fred Zimmer

I'm a lover of plants, animals, photography, & people, not necessarily in that order. Currently, I'm focused on photographing indoor plants & chachkies. I write & rewrite articles about creating an environment where indoor plants can thrive. I'm good at listening to music but bad at shopping to muzak.

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